Avoiding Strife

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner
Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

In this week’s Torah portion we read about the Temple being erected in the desert.  To celebrate this great occasion, the leaders of each tribe bought special gifts and sacrifices to the Temple.  The Torah tells us that for the first twelve days of the standing of the Temple, each day one leader of a tribe brought these special gifts and sacrifices to the Temple.

However, despite the fact that each gift from each tribe was identical, the Torah describes this inauguration in great length by listing the gift of each tribe independently, although the Torah could have listed the gift one time and continued that each leader brought this exact gift.  This is very puzzling since we know that the Torah is very precise with its’ wording and many times the Talmud deduces laws from even one extra letter written in the Torah.

One of the explanation for this lengthy description is provided by the Midrash which states that originally each tribe was going to bring a different gift and sacrifice to the Temple, this would have been more appropriate since we know that each tribe had its own talents and distinct way of serving G-d. However, Netanel Ben Tzuar, the leader of the tribe of Yissochar, was afraid that this would lead to competition, jealousy and strife and thus he suggested that for the sake of peace, each tribe should bring the same identical gift and his suggestion was accepted by all of the tribes.   This is the reason that the Torah lists each gift independently to teach us how pleased G-d was with each gift, although it was identical to the others, since it came with the Spirit of unity and love.

I would like to conclude with a folk tale that demonstrates the power that lies in unity.

The animals of the forest held a contest to find out who could holler the loudest.  The alligators were to be the judges. The alligators positioned themselves in a line stretching deep into the forest, with ten yards between each one.  The contestant would stand at the head of the line, give a yell. and when an alligator heard the contestant’s voice, he would raise his hand.  The fox would run down the line counting hands, and in this way determine how far the contestant’s voice had traveled.

The rabbit stepped up and yelled.  One alligator hand went up.  The beaver hollered.  Three hands went up.  The deer took her turn, then the buffalo, and finally, the lion.  After the lion roared, the judges convened with the fox and concluded that with 32 out of 50 hands, the lion was the loudest animal in the forest.  The fox was about to give the lion his trophy when a little dove flew in front of him and protested, “Wait, you didn’t give me a chance.”  The fox laughed, “Do you really think you can out-roar the lion?” “All I ask, is that you give me a chance.”

The alligators agreed, and returned to their positions.  The dove flew to the highest branch of the nearest tree and began to coo.  His voice traveled throughout the entire forest, and all of the alligators, to the far end of the forest, lifted their hands.  The fox took the trophy and gave it to the dove.

After all the animals dispersed, the fox went over to the dove and asked, “tell me the truth, how were you able to out-roar the lion?” The dove replied, “Actually, I could never out-roar the lion alone.  You see, all of my siblings, relatives and friends were positioned on all the other trees in the forest, and when I began to coo, they all joined in with me.”

About Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner is the Rabbi of Boulder County Center for Judaism. In addition, he teaches extensively throughout Boulder County and is the author of "Finding the Joy in Everyday Living," a book of short chapters explaining the ways to access happiness through appreciation, gratitude, and a sense of purpose.

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